When driving to the Iditarod start is more dangerous than the race itself

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WILLOW — Sixty-seven mushers and dog collaborates were preparing to start the journey to Nome from Willow Lake Sunday afternoon as the 1,000-mile Iditarod Straggle Sled Dog Race got underway for real.

The race restarts in Willow after Saturday’s 11-mile solemn start in Anchorage.

The quiet of the trail ahead comes as a relief for a folk beset this year by accusations of doping scandals, big-name promotes pulling out, internal conflict and animal rights groups protesting dog deaths.

At Sunday’s restart, zealots spread across normally quiet Willow Lake, temporarily kicking the population of this community of about 2,000 people along the Woodlands Highway.

More race watchers, most clustered around snowmachines, swept for miles from the lake in the annual «trailgate» party that squires the race restart.

But for the mushers, just getting the restart was a challenge.

The Glenn Highway, painted with fresh snow Saturday, turned to ice north of Eagle River as trashes loaded with sleds, gear and at least 16 dogs maneuvered out of the burgh Saturday afternoon.

By mid-afternoon, the highway was shut down amid check outs of 50 vehicles in the ditch and what seemed like too many shatters to track.

One snared Kristy Berington, husband Andy Pohl, and 24 sled dogs in a contact and trailer behind them. Pohl is running Iditarod for the first chance this year.

Berington, a race veteran, came up over a hill to see saw two people in the ditch and three buggies blocking the roadway.

Kristy Berington. (Bill Roth / ADN)

Kristy Berington. (Account Roth / ADN)

«I tried to stop and hit the car in front of me, probably at 25 or 30 mph,» Berington held Sunday morning. «Fortunately, nobody hit the dog trailer in the back of us.»

An Anchorage policemen officer told her there were 15 accidents at the same for the present, just after 2 p.m.

Nobody was hurt, not the people or the dogs. But the dog truck was totaled. And there were 24 dogs without a way master b crush to the couple’s Knik kennel.

People started helping right away, Berington rumoured. Race veterinarian Tabitha Jones, a few cars behind, skittered on foot across the icy highway to balk the dogs.

A van from Alaska Missions happened to be nearby, too. They brim-full the dogs in the truck into the van and hooked up the trailer carrying the rest. Yukon Mission veteran Christine Roalofs helped haul everybody to Sunday’s start.

Berington ordered she and Pohl got «not even a few hours» of sleep Saturday between the lost plunge time and the time it took to switch everything to Roalof’s truck.

«Babies and family made everything possible,» she said. «I don’t want to drive anything except for a dog sled for the next month.»

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